A GENERATIONAL FAILURE – AT 8:11 A.M. ET: We turn our attention to Richard Blumenthal, only recently the fair-haired attorney general of Connecticut and sure-thing Democratic Senate candidate to succeed Chris Dodd. Now Blumey is under a cloud, and the cloud isn't passing by.
Blumenthal has clearly lied about his service record, having claimed or implied, on many occasions, that he served in Vietnam when in fact he was a Marine reservist who'd accepted multiple deferments. Even The New York Times, in an editorial, has expressed dismay over Blumenthal's deception. When The Times expresses dismay over a liberal, that's the Earth moving.
In a provocative op-ed, also in The Times, former Republican Senator Larry Pressler of South Dakota, analyzes Blumenthal's generation, and finds his behavior disturbingly typical:
THE problems faced by Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s attorney general, over his depiction of his military service are indicative of a broader disease in our society. The issues of integrity in business and politics that plague us today — the way elites are no longer trusted — are rooted in the dishonesty that surrounded the Vietnam-era draft...
...Many of those who didn’t serve were helped by an inherently unfair draft. I don’t fault anyone for taking advantage of the law. Where I do find fault is among those who say they were avoiding the draft because they were idealistically opposed to the war — when, in fact, they mostly didn’t want to make the sacrifice. The problem is that for every person who won a deferment or a spot in a special National Guard unit, someone poorer or less educated, and usually African-American, had to serve.
I'm glad this issue is coming out.
I had a unique opportunity to observe the best and brightest of my generation — first as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford in 1964 and then when I attended Harvard Law School after serving in Vietnam. Among both sets of my classmates were some who used elaborate steps to avoid the draft. (At school, I recall articles circulating that explained how to fail Army physicals.)
In private conversations with my classmates, I was told over and over that they didn’t want to serve in the military because it would hold up their careers. To the outside world, though, many would proclaim they weren’t going because they were opposed to the war and we should end all wars. Eventually they began to believe their “idealism” was superior to that of those who did serve. They said that it was courageous to resist the draft — something that would have been true if they had actually become conscientious objectors and gone to prison.
Pressler is dead on, and his argument can be expanded. Much of the "idealism" of the late sixties was self-serving. Some feminists were idealistic and women of integrity, but others were simply advancing legal or writing careers. Believe me, I knew them. Most African-Americans saw the civil rights movement as, correctly, noble and needed to remove a stain on our society. Some, sadly, used the movement to advance their personal political power. We saw this, painfully, in New York, where a huge dispute over who would control the great New York City school system was really a debate over who would have patronage power over the schools, not a debate over improving education.
In the coming days, I imagine we will learn more details of Mr. Blumenthal’s sad story. What we know, though, more generally, is much more troubling. Too many members of my generation learned to believe that they could work within the law to evade basic responsibilities, cloaking their actions in idealism. It’s a way of thinking that scars us to this day.
Because the "intellectual" world is so stacked with those on the left, we haven't had a true academic examination of the hypocrisy that was (and is) rampant in the sixties generation. It is long overdue, and will enlighten us about the behavior of some of today's leaders.
May 19, 2010